February 16

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Beating Imposter Syndrome For Entrepreneurial Success with Alana Ruoso

By Mimi MacLean

February 16, 2021


A graphic designer turned business coach, Alana Ruoso’s main focus is helping her clients overcome imposter syndrome – something that haunts many of us in our career development phase. She helps people define their goals, create routines, and achieve their business and life goals. Her experience in design and creative business growth allows her to work with both brands and individuals on the best way to grow and succeed.

Table of Contents

Mimi MacLean: Hey, welcome back to The Badass CEO. Today we have on Alana Ruoso. She is a success coach for designers, creators, and professionals. She will show us today how to ditch your struggle, own your value, and move your business from vanilla success to spectacular triumph. Thank you Alana for coming on today. To get your top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. I’d first like to just hear a little bit about yourself and how you went about to starting your company.

Transitioning to Coaching

beating imposter syndrome coach Alana Ruoso
Alana Ruoso, Founder and CEO of Alana Ruoso Coaching

Alana Ruoso: I started out many years ago in the graphic design field. I’ve been a creative for most of my life and started studying graphic design in high school. At a really young age, I went down the creative path and have enjoyed a lot of my career, have not enjoyed a lot of my career. It’s been super up and down and a lot of anxiety challenges throughout it. Then I went right into the design industry. I’ve worked in advertising, book publishing. I’ve done a whole bunch of different things, but always had a passion for personal development. I started studying personal development and working with coaches. Then eventually, really in 2016, I decided that was the world that I wanted to move into.

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. Did you just go off on your own right away?

Alana Ruoso: No, it’s been a combination of working freelance, corporate, coaching. It’s been for me a really slow process. That was interesting. There’s been parts of my career where I just opened up my own design company and did that and had no problems or it felt easy. The coaching business, I will be honest, I made the deliberate decision to do it slowly. Partly to avoid some things that I did in my design business, some mistakes I made, and to build my confidence. It took a while. It wasn’t something that came easily to me.

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. Now I think a big challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs, especially when they start out is clients and getting clients. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you started getting, is it through referrals or how you went about getting clients?

Mindset: A Factor in Attracting Clients

Alana Ruoso: That’s a great question. One of the things that I noticed in my design business that I would apply to my coaching business was once I made the decision that there were clients out there for me, then it made it a lot easier. For some reason, the path started to open up. I go through every day deciding that there’s someone out there who needs to work with me, wants to work with me. I set that intention.

That’s one thing that’s being just a mindset piece. But in terms of some of the logistics, networking has been one of the things that I have done and that’s mainly virtually now. I do a lot of virtual networking post on LinkedIn, word of mouth, for sure. Absolutely. I do some social media, but it’s definitely not a passion of mine. It’s something I struggle with like I’m sure a lot of people. Asking, asking people for referrals and really being vocal about what it is I actually do.

Tips on networking

Mimi MacLean: That’s great advice. You touched a little bit on networking. Is there any specifics? Are you going into Facebook groups? What do you mean by that?

Alana Ruoso: Some of it is Facebook groups. Actually, when Meetup was pretty popular a couple of years ago, that was a great platform. I was actually going to a lot of meetup.coms. There are women’s networking groups via Meetup that are now virtual. I found that those have been more valuable for me than the actual Facebook groups. That’s something that I just, they’re more intimate. I’m also part of Young Women in Business, which is a company in Toronto that does mentoring and programs for women. I’m pretty active in that. That’s another way that I’ve gotten clients and gotten people to recognize what I’m doing.

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. That’s great. I would love to talk about what you offered to your clients because I definitely think it’s something that is needed and has been expressed to me. I think a lot of women who are CEOs, even though they’re doing really well, still feel like they’re insecure. They don’t have the confidence that they would want, especially if they’re in an arena that’s mostly men. It’s almost like an imposter syndrome you would call it. I would love for you to just talk about that and advice about that and beating imposter syndrome.

Beating Imposter Syndrome

“Beating imposter syndrome is very common,” says Alana Ruuso
“Beating imposter syndrome is very common need,” says Alana Ruuso

Alana Ruoso: Yeah. Beating imposter syndrome is huge. People come to me with this for sure. One of the quotes I love is an Amy Cuddy one and it’S, “Fake it till you become it.” As opposed to fake it till you make it. I’m sure a lot of people have heard that. She did a TED Talk in I think 2012. That’s one of the things right off the bat that I think is a mindset piece that we’re starting with.

I was super, super lacking confidence. I really, really struggled. That was part of my story. I found being a designer really hard. I found going into coaching really hard. I’ve constantly questioned my ability. That’s less than so, because I’ve done so much work with coaches and it’s really led me down this path to help people, really, that piece of unfulfilled potential.

The fear of not reaching your potential haunted me. It would literally haunt me. I just knew I wasn’t doing exactly what I was meant to do or doing it in a way that was going to make me happy. I don’t think it matters how successful you are because I’ve talked to people that have huge businesses and they’re still struggling with that. They don’t feel like they’re in the potential. That’s definitely one of the things that I work with people on.

Mimi MacLean: Right. Is it feeling that you’re not reaching your potential or feeling that you’re in a spot that you’re not qualified to be in?

Alana Ruoso: That’s a good point. It’s definitely the not qualified to be in it or not worthy of it. Like they can’t attain it. For me, there was definitely this, there’s them and there’s me. I felt a huge divide between where I was or where I could be. I couldn’t have what other people had. A lot of it was some of the circumstances growing up. There was a divide. I think people think there’s a bigger divide between where they are and where they can be. They think of it as very vast, but it’s actually not that vast. They’re actually usually closer than they think.

Mimi MacLean: What usually helps them get there?

Overcoming limiting beliefs

Alana Ruoso: We usually look at limiting beliefs. I’m always going down that mindset path. We’re looking at the limiting beliefs, the stories that you’re telling yourself over and over and over again that become part of your story and we hang on so tight to them. I really hang on tight to some things that were part of my life and part of my experience, and then I let them define me. Then I created this obstacle and it really becomes a self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is actually one of the huge topics that I talk about with people because it pops up in really weird ways for people. Everyone’s very, very different how it shows up. We look at some of those behaviors and we think, okay, then we have to consciously make decisions to change that behavior. Then we’re going to get different results.

Mimi MacLean: I like that, the self-sabotage. Now have you from your experience, if you look at a successful CEO, we can all name some very, very successful ones and people who are not or not there yet, is there a common characteristics or there’s something that makes them super successful, confident than other people are not doing?

Characteristics of Successful CEOs

Characteristics of success beating imposter syndrome- Alana Ruoso
Alignment is a key factor of a successful mindset – Alana Ruoso

Alana Ruoso: Well, I think it’s an alignment issue a lot of the time. I think there’s a very curious thing that happens when I find that people are reaching their success faster. My observation is that they’re in alignment with what they want, which means that they truly want what they want. It’s not someone else’s goal, that they actually truly want it.

They’ve kind of worked through some of those subconscious blocks that might be stopping them. They feel that they can actually attain it and not just saying that they can, but there’s that piece of them that knows that they can actually achieve it. For a lot of people, there’s the business side of things and the logistics and that, but that is a huge part of it is getting through that limiting belief that might be stopping them.

Mimi MacLean: That’s true. Now, do you recommend or is there anything that you would suggest on a daily basis that someone can do? Like in the morning, is it meditating? Is it something that’s journaling? Things that get you there physically than just saying, okay, I’m going to have a positive mindset.

Setting daily intentions

Alana Ruoso: No, absolutely. It’s really like just positive mindset is kind of mailing lists really because there’s definitely science to back up. You can just have that. But the two things that I’ve found have been really instrumental for me and for a lot of my clients is one is having that intention every morning. It is whether you want to do that in journaling or whether you just want to say it to yourself.

Setting the intention for the day, that’s something I actually do every single morning. Sometimes it’s literally, I just want to stay calm throughout the whole day. Some days it’s like the perfect client is going to come my way, or I’m going to get one step closer to this giant business deal that I want to land or to seal. Because if you’re just haphazardly going through your day, you’re actually not going to get as far as you could.

Meditation

Alana Ruoso: Setting yourself up with that intention I think is a huge part. Meditation, all of that is part of it, journaling for sure. I am failing miserably this year at journaling. I find that there’s some things I’m doing really well right now. I find I’m missing it. I’m not doing as much journaling, but absolutely. The intention part, I never miss a day.

Mimi MacLean: When you say the intention part, are you writing it? Are you just verbally telling it to yourself?

Alana Ruoso: I’ve been verbally telling it to myself. Again, I’m lacking the journaling regimen right now. For some people, writing it down is ideal. I do try to write out as many things as I can. If you just get out of bed or not even before you’ve gotten out of bed is set your intention as to how you want your day to go. That mean that’s a really basic thing, but it is so, so powerful.

I really got committed about doing this actually about January of just last year. I’ve noticed huge differences. I personally do it outside in the cold, it’s winter here right now. I go out every morning into my garden and I set my intention in that space.

Can You Really Change People?

beating imposter syndrome with Alana Ruoso
Having awareness is a great place to start – Alana Ruoso

Mimi MacLean: I like that. I like that a lot. You know, it’s interesting. Do you feel like you can actually change people? How do I say this? What’s the right word? Like I have friends who are entrepreneurs or have their own companies and they’re kind of spinning. It’s hard to tell them what they’re doing, but they might be severely distracted or completely ADD. I say ADD loosely, meaning like they’re looking at their cellphone all day long, they’re on the phone.

They’re like just not even focusing. I don’t even know if they have, I think they do have ADD. Anyways, I’m just wondering, can you change people or is that something that’s there to stay? Meaning, the things that are hanging them up from getting to the next level is maybe not just a mindset, maybe it’s actually changing their practices.

Alana Ruoso: For sure.

Mimi MacLean: How would you work with people with that?

Alana Ruoso: For sure. The number one thing is awareness. Sometimes I’ll ask them to describe part of their day to me, and just tune into kind of what they’re doing and noticing it and getting them to be aware of what’s happening. But if there’s no willingness to be aware, the people that come to me usually have that first initial desire.

They really do want to become aware. Then you can start to see where you’re distracting. I mean, being distracted, doing things that are unproductive or kind of keeping yourself overwhelmed, that’s a huge self-sabotage tactic. That’s actually just keeping you from focusing on what you need to do. You’re not being your best advocate when you’re doing that.

Developing a shatterproof mindset for success

Mimi MacLean: One of the favorite topics that you talk about which I love is how to build a shatterproof mindset for success and that issue of beating imposter syndrome.

Alana Ruoso: Yes.

Mimi MacLean: Do you mind talking a little bit about that?

Alana Ruoso: Yeah. That is definitely going into starting with that awareness piece that we’re talking about, and then there’s the discipline piece of it. It’s like if you’re seeing that you’re recognizing behaviors that you don’t want to do and thinking same thoughts over and over again.

Well, how are we going to rewire your brain? Sometimes I actually use the word brainwash. I know that’s got such a negative connotation because we don’t want to be brainwashed by certain things. I actually have found so much of my success has been positively brainwashing me, like literally flooding my mind with different words, phrases, goals, things that I want to work on.

You have to. If you could see my office now, it’s post-it note kind of crazy, right? Because I’m always reminding myself, I am rewiring my brain. I am changing my mindset. It’s something that you have to be really diligent about, really committed to. You do it in small little tiny pieces, but over time, absolutely. That is going to change your mindset.

Developing your brand

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. I like that. You also talk about how to build a brand like a brilliant brand. Can you talk about that?

Alana Ruoso: Yeah. When I actually started coaching, first it was because my background is so much in design. It was really being a brand coach and working with entrepreneurs on helping them build their brand, develop the rationale, their strategy, and visually. Sometimes I still work with that with clients, kind of my niche is working with a lot of creative clients.

Everything from designers, photographers, actors, things like that. Sometimes we actually go through what their company is, what their brand is, and really stripping it down to what makes them happy but what’s their messaging. Absolutely, branding is a huge part of the success of any company. It doesn’t matter how small or how big it is, that is absolutely. It’s still a passion of mine.

Mimi MacLean: Now, do you work with people also to help build their brand?

Alana Ruoso: Sometimes. I’ve moved a bit away from, so what happened was I was working with entrepreneurs on a lot of branding and it was so close to what I had been doing for so long that I didn’t find the challenge and it wasn’t really as fulfilling. It’s not something that I do as much. I’ve worked now more with the personal development, the mindset piece, getting the courage, avoiding the self-sabotage, avoiding struggle. But that is just something that I still work into with some of my clients, for sure.

Servicing Clients

Mimi MacLean: Then can you tell me about actually your services? Like how you do work with people, is it an ongoing or is it a program?

Alana Ruoso: Yeah. It’s ongoing. Most of my clients are one-on-one. I do some group programs as well and some corporate work, but most of my clients do a one-on-one which is six coaching sessions together. Six to me is the minimum that you need to start seeing some transformation. Because the really interesting thing about when you work with someone in a coaching capacity, guaranteed by the third or fourth session, they are either wanting to bail, the stuff is coming up.

They start maybe rescheduling like the blocks. You’re really starting to dig deep when beating imposter syndrome among other things. There’s the initial excitement of, oh my God, I’m going to take on the world and change everything in my life. Then it gets a little bit tough because we’re getting to some of the nitty-gritty. Within six, I find there’s usually a bit of a transformation.

The interesting thing that I do with every client is I start with something called the Energy Leadership Index assessment. It’s got a really crazy long name. It’s called an ELI and it’s actually an attitudinal assessment which helps me see how a client is showing up on a day-to-day basis, like in a happy day and in a stressed day and what their default settings are. Whether they are people pleaser on a general basis but then they like to go into victim mode, or they’re someone who’s really angry, but they actually do want to be of service. I kind of get a sense of that. I do that with every client.

Tips for overcoming addictions to struggle

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. Now, are there any other tips that you would offer women CEOs or entrepreneurs right now that could be struggling or just starting out? Any tips either from what you’ve learned personally as you’ve been growing your business or just from your expertise of helping women? Remembering beating the imposter syndrome is a factor.

Alana Ruoso: One of the things that I’ve noticed, and I’m going to say especially with women, is that they have an addiction to struggle. This was something that came up huge for me. I’ve been to tons of, we talked about those women’s entrepreneurial networking groups. I’ve been to so many. Quite a few of them, they are a lot of women talking about how hard things are, the struggle, it’s like they’re overloaded, they’re overtaxed. They’re like maxed out. Of course, some of them are balancing being parents as well, but they’re making it harder than it has to be.

It’s not like building a business is easy, but I feel like they’re adding these layers of overextending themselves, the sabotage layer on top of it. Telling themselves, I don’t know what I’m doing when they actually do know what they’re doing. To me, I just see it. I just use the whole word like struggle. It’s just this dark cloud of struggle and they are entrenched in it. I feel for a lot of people, it’s an addiction.

Mimi MacLean: How do you recommend undoing that?

Alana Ruoso: First, recognizing where and how you’re doing it. It ties into the self-sabotage. For me, my biggest addiction to struggle was overscheduling and being super busy. I would just be as crazy multitasker and I convince myself that was just because I was multi passionate and I like doing a bunch of things and I was just super creative and I had all these ideas. No. What it really was was me taxing myself to the point where I was exhausted all the time.

Once you recognize where you’re actually doing it, you can start to see, is there little things where I’m willing to let go? Are there places where I’m actually willing to let the struggle go? Do I have to do everything that’s on my calendar? I mean, we all have these insane calendars. That’s the first place that we have to look at for a lot of people is where are they overdoing it? I always say it has been for me a struggle to let go of the struggle. I see that with a lot of people because it’s just our default setting.

Mimi MacLean: Especially as women trying to do it all.

Alana Ruoso: Yes. Yes.

Mimi MacLean: We’re trying to make everything perfect. We try to juggle everything and not ask for help.

Alana Ruoso: Oh yeah. I’d love asking for help now. That’s definitely helps you release the struggle. Being open to different solutions. I always think of those people. I had that friend, let’s just say they just can’t stop coughing and you offer them a cough drop. They’re like, no, no, no, no. They don’t even want the cough drop. Any little thing, they just don’t want any reprieve. It’s like the littlest things that shows up-

Mimi MacLean: I think what happens is, I’m in this mastermind group and there’s one woman today who’s a doctor. It was very eyeopening because having somebody else hear it, that I’m probably doing the same thing. She was saying that she only worked four days a week because the fifth day she used it as her admin day where she does all the administrative stuff. She doesn’t have an administrative assistant. I’m like, wait, wait, I’m sure she’s making several hundred dollars an hour that she’s billing out as to be a doctor, but yet you’re sitting and paying your bills.

It’s like when you hear somebody else say it, I was like, oh my gosh, what is she doing? It’s obvious. What are you doing? I think a lot of the times it’s actually slowing down enough to recognize that you’re doing that. Then I think her struggle was like, yes, I would love help, but how do I stop, find the help, and then train that help? I don’t even have time to stop and do those two things in order to even let it go.

The illusion of control

Alana Ruoso: Yeah. That’s such a great example. That’s really typical. It’s like all these small things that we don’t need to be doing but we hold on so tight to them, because I think especially as overachievers, so many women are overachievers. You just hold on to everything because you want to control it. You want to be responsible for the success of all of it. The more we let go, the more we end up releasing struggle. The more you release struggle, the more you allow yourself to really be present with everyone. Honestly, it’s just a different kind of life.

Mimi MacLean: Yeah. No, it’s true. But I definitely think going through this, and this is what I keep saying to myself as much as I can, and I’m trying to be a very organized and simplified person. Creating systems for everything, right? It’s almost like they always say have a place for everything in your home. Like you know where the scissors go, you know your keys go. You know where your glasses go, right. It’s the same idea. If you can do that for everything in your life as early as possible. I naturally don’t do that so it’s been hard. I’m not a naturally super organized person. I like to be, but I think that’s the key too for a lot of people is if you can create systems right off the bat.

If it’s how you pay your bills. If it’s how you keep track of files, whatever. Anything in your business, systematize it, so then also that you know how to do it and then it’s easy for you to hand over for somebody else.

Alana Ruoso: The handover, the handover piece is going to be huge. It’s scary for a lot of people, but it’s absolutely necessary. It’s like that whole thing about saying no to certain things, turning things down, giving things to people. All of that is a part of it. I absolutely agree with that.

Practices and apps to help with routines

Mimi MacLean: What is your morning routine like? Is there anything that you do in the morning that you could share? Are there any apps or secrets or one example I give people is like? Especially now during COVID when we haven’t had a lot of help and if you have a lot of kids. Like in LA, there’s an app called rinse.com, which I love. It comes and picks up when I’m overwhelmed. It comes and picks up my laundry and brings it back the next day.

Alana Ruoso: Amazing.

Mimi MacLean: It’s all on an app. Is there any apps, anything in the morning, routines, any kind of tips that you can give us?

Alana Ruoso: I alluded to, I was saying I set my intention for the day. I want to tell my little morning routine because, A, it’s been life-changing, but also I was never a morning person. I never did anything in the morning. I made the decision last year that I was going to change that because I knew my body needed it. I physically needed it. I do start my morning. I go outside in my pajamas and my rain boots into the garden.

I just go in that garden. I do the breath of joy. I do a yoga breathing exercise. Then I ground myself with a little meditation. I set my intention and I do a gratitude. The whole thing takes about three minutes. I think about what I’m really grateful for. It’s a three minute routine. It has absolutely changed things for me. It has drastically reduced my anxiety every day. Someone who gets super stressed and my body can sometimes get really, really tightly wound up. It’s had an amazing effect.

What I love about it is it’s literally two to three minutes, it’s doable. I would hear people talk about a morning routine and I would stress out and I would just be like, I can’t add anything more. I’m just trying to wake up. I got really defensive. Then I realized, well, maybe that’s me just staying in kind of struggle mode a little bit more. I was open to the idea and I have made it simple.

You know what’s funny though, there’s always a part of me that thinks, oh, man, I really should do this for longer. I should do this better. I should do this like, nope, nope, nope, no. I’m like, three minutes, that’s it. We’re done and back in the house and back in for tea. That has been hugely positive in my life.

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. That’s great. I know we do like to make everything more complicated and feel the guilt, right. We’re never doing enough. Like if you’re going to do the seven minute workout, then maybe you should be doing this.

Alana Ruoso: Yes.

Mimi MacLean: [inaudible 00:23:35] workout. It’s never enough.

Alana Ruoso: Never enough.that was actually a huge mindset piece for me to get through was actually that exact phrase, it’s never enough. I had to look at a lot of where that was coming from and it’s like, you know what? Three minutes is enough. It’s great. I’m awesome. It’s working.

Mimi MacLean: That’s great. That’s great. Thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. It’s been great. I love all your advice.

Alana Ruoso: Thank you so much. It’s been just wonderful to chat.

Mimi MacLean: Thank you for joining us on The Badass CEO. To get your copy of the top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Email me at mimi@thebadassceo.com. See you next week and thank you for listening.

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